NDSU Working With Researchers From Across Country to Tackle Pancreatic Cancer

Students are presenting their innovative ideas

FARGO, N.D. — A pancreatic cancer research symposium at NDSU connects students to researchers across the country to help find more innovative ways to treat the disease.

Researchers say 85 percent of tumors in cancer patients are solid which is why they can be so hard to treat. NDSU graduate student Matthew Confeld is taking a different approach to finding a cure.

“If you just think of it as a small, little ball, we’re stuffing that ball with the chemotherapy drug that allows for a high concentration of the drug. Then when you put that in the patient, it’s going to find its way to the bloodstream to those cancer cells, penetrate into that tumor and then blow it up from the inside out,” said Matthew Confeld.

Confeld says standard chemotherapy involves giving a dissolved solution like water or saline. He and other graduate students are instead delivering those same drugs through a drug vehicle and testing it on mice.

“By doing that, we allow for targeted therapy which can decrease the chance for side effects to that patient,” Confeld said.

Confeld and his team are just a few of the students sharing their ideas with researchers from across the country at an NDSU pancreatic cancer symposium.

“We are bringing in these emerging areas so that students are exposed to them, our new faculty are exposed to them and I feel that will help build our biomedical infrastructure,” said Sanku Malik, NDSU Pharmaceutical Science professor.

In doing so, it’s also about figuring out a disease that is often referred to as a “silent killer.”

“Most people don’t know that they have the cancer early on so you probably have the cancer for at least two to three years before it declares itself,” said Michael Hollingsworth, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Hollingsworth says pancreatic cancer is hard to detect in patients experience symptoms that seem like any ordinary issue like new on–set diabetes or low back pain.

That’s why he says it’s important to keep doing research on the symptoms and raise awareness of what they look like.

“We do need to change I think in the primary care, medical setting an awareness of some of these changes so we can be more careful in working people up and those things wouldn’t cost any more money if you just have a little bit of an awareness other than maybe getting a screening done every now and then,” Hollingsworth said.

The next steps to get Confeld’s method approved include getting more funding, testing it on monkeys or dogs at a different facility in the U.S. and finally on a pancreatic cancer patient.

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